Columbia River Porn Stars (cuz we’re so nasty to the walleye) – by Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle
By angelamontana


c1As we headed west with the boat in the rearview mirror the anticipation grew…checking the weather (wind) every twenty minutes. Of course it is what it is, and you don’t know if you don’t go, right?!?! Making it over the passes with clear roads; we felt lucky enough after last year’s horrendous trip over. By the time we rounded Spokane my jigging arm was starting to twitch. We made a quick stop for our licenses and put the pedal back down. Reaching the Ritzville exit, I was tying jigs on and mentally feeling that THUMP! Before we knew it we were a couple miles away from Pasco and with a few hours until dark we headed straight to Hood Park in Burbank (ramp on the Snake River.) As always, the first thing I did stepping out of the truck at Hood Park was take a couple deep breaths of the deliciously nasty salty seagull poop air…smells almost as good as elk urine! We bull-crapped with a few folks then uncovered the ship and headed through the heavenly gates to the promised land. I have been to some incredible places and stood on some big magical mountains, but I can assure you a few handfuls of my ashes will be tossed overboard at the buoy 30 marker on the Columbia River someday. Take hints on that marker # folks;)

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Unwinding from the drive it felt awesome to be on the water with decent weather. We have had so much bad luck with weather that I almost find myself looking over my shoulder for the white caps! We actually left for this trip on a whim…we saw a break in the weather and we were gone! We fished our hearts out until dark and never touched a fish of any species. Feeling a little rejected, I assured dad we were jittery from the trip and would figure them spiny buggers out tomorrow. We headed back to the Tri-Cities and checked into the Super 8 motel. We normally camp, but unfortunately on this stretch of the river no campgrounds are open until May. So if you stay at the Super 8 there are two big rocks to block your boat tires in the bushes behind the power plug-ins 🙂

When morning came we fueled up on high octane coffee and set sail in search of the Columbia River gold. The day actually started off pretty chilly and the fishing was tough. About the time dad was froze to death I set the hook in what felt like a tank! When she finally came up it was a mega girthy 28’’ hen and we were revived and rejuvenated! Man it felt good to hold such a magnificent fish and then to set her back into the haunted waters of the big river. It wasn’t a few minutes later and dad started on a little heater catching a few nice fish and the memories began. We worked into the night and although having a tough day we caught some amazing fish and felt so blessed to be together on the big river. Having a fun nighttime boat ride back to the ramp I looked at my dad and the river around me and TOOK IT ALL IN! Talk about feeling like the luckiest guy alive having the opportunity to spend this magical time with my dad doing what we both dream about at night. And how cool that some twenty-five years prior, we were doing the same thing below the John Day dam on the lower Columbia River when I was just a little smolt 🙂

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The next day the weather was perfect with not a breath of wind…one of the nicest days I’ve ever had on the Columbia River; also one of the most special days I’ve ever spent fishing in my life. I didn’t catch a twenty pounder, but the experience was on the same level for me. Our friend and dedicated Pro Staff guru, Kimo Gabriel took the day off to share some time on the water with us. And before you get all sentimental on me…it was only how AMAZINGLY good his breakfast sandwiches and smoked salmon were that made it so great 🙂 LOL. In all honestly I got to spend a day on the water with my two biggest fishing mentors in this entire world…my father and Kimo Gabriel. So already feeling like I was fishing with a couple of celebrities we also got to bang some awesome fish…and clams! I lifted up on my jig and felt resistance so I set the hook into what felt like a perch or small walleye. Getting it to the surface a giant silver dollar sized fresh water clam had chomped down on my glass minnow. When Kimo saw the clam he yelled, “Holy S#@%…that is a true trophy! You better get out the soft tape and get measurements so you can get a replica made.” Laughing so hard I could barely get the mollusk off my jig, it ended up stealing a few stands of my fire tiger Glass Minnow before returning to the depths.

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By the next morning, all things had melded together as they always do on these trips. We didn’t know if we had been on the river for two days or twenty or if we were even jigging right…but this is when we usually start kicking major walleye cheek! We went on to do no wrong weaving between the boats and putting on a Made in Montana clinic, baby! By mid-day we had an unreal mixed bag of fish ranging from 18’’ to 30’’ and how surprising and AWESOME to see this! These trips are usually one bite a day wonders looking for the big girls, but this trip was yielding the entire flange of the measuring board. In fact, we actually caught a couple males small enough to take back to Montana! So we get to release our trophies and our wives get to have a back home walleye fry. Speaking of Walleye Fry, this is actually the name of our new for 2015 Glass Minnow that did the most damage on the trip. It has wild glowing eyes and we were tipping it with a Berkley Gulp or Trigger X Minnow…also worked great with a live crawler. One of the biggest fish we caught this day actually snapped my jig on the top of the lift-up and almost ripped the rod out of my hands…it’s rare the big females over ten pounds do this! They just couldn’t get enough of the Walleye Fry.

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Dad descended his jig to the bottom the next morning at daylight; we didn’t make it a couple yards and he yelled, “Fish, good fish,” and I punched the waypoint button on the graph and grabbed the net. Taking forever for this fish to rise from the depths we thought it was going to be a whale or a record walleye…one of the two. When it finally came up we were both shocked it wasn’t bigger…even though it was an eleven or twelve pounder. This is the only place in the world folks that you would be thinking a fish would be bigger than twelve pounds. And don’t think for a second we mean that it’s not an unreal huge fish…it just fought harder than some of the fifteen plus we have caught in the past. I was excited about how scrappy a big egg laden female could be…I started thinking to myself I might need a big game fishing seat if we hook into a twenty pounder. Placing her in the live well to revive I grabbed my rod and started to let my jig out. I s!@# you not…before my jig hit the bottom dad had another big fish on. Talk about net training at its finest!! I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I scooped another big ten poundish walleye into the net. In less than five minutes and a hundred yard stretch dad had caught two ten pound plus walleyes. There are places in the world where people fish a lifetime for one! Let’s just say after the day before, these two toads back to back, and the twenty three other nice fish that followed that day drew some serious attention to our boat.

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We handed out a couple dozen Glass Minnows on the river and got to see some immediate success in fellow anglers. This was truly awesome…an older gentleman even caught a ten pounder right in front of us on the half ounce “Yellow Perch” Glass Minnow tipped with a crawler. Folks were very grateful that we shared honest information and were willing to share our product and advice. Ranch and Home in Kennewick actually sold out of hundreds of Glass Minnows from the success people were having! The only trade I made with the other anglers was they had to promise they would let the better fish go. I know I sound like a squealing broken record but I AM VERY POASSIONATE ABOUT CATCH AND RELEASE. I should rephrase and say “Selective Harvest.” I love to eat fish as much as the next guy, but the fish (males and females) over 20” are your brood stock spawners for a fishery. Without these fish the body of water is in jeopardy of maintaining what it has. I have been so lucky to catch the fish I have and had the opportunity to do so. I want more than anything for future generations to get the same chance I have had to spend time on these fisheries. So please, do the right thing when you’re out there…and make sure to carry a soft tape in case you get the fish of your dreams. Letting her go is a rush that will last a lifetime…and both hearts will be happy.

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At the end of the day, just absolutely astonished of the day we had, we decided to make one last quick drift in the dark. Trying to watch my rod tip in the headlamp over my breath from the cold evening air, dad yelled, “Heavy fish Trev.” Scurrying for the net in the dark, I got into position…I had already had plenty of practice from the trip. J In the bright lumens of my headlamp the first thing I saw was big glowing eyes coming towards the boat. I scooped her into the net and it was another monster fish measuring thirty-one inches long. I was in absolute disbelief of how amazing of a day we had just had. In fact, after realizing the mixed bag and quality and quantity of the fish from the day…we both agreed it was the best day of walleye fishing either of us had ever had anywhere or any time of year. Not to mention the water temp was under thirty-nine degrees. All I can say is WOW!

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We had planned to fish the entire next day (Superbowl Sunday) but after my wife had sent me a couple of shots of my daughter back home my heart was feeling pretty heavy. We had the most amazing trip ever and got to spend some super quality time with friends on the water. We decided we would do a couple of farewell drifts before heading home. Getting on the water you could feel the weather was starting to change. There was a nice breeze and some darn cold snow/ice pellets that morning. A brief reminder of how unforgiving this river can be. On our second drift I lifted my jig up into what felt like a giant log…and then it moved. I can assure you, in fact promise you, if you are a jig fisherman, this is the GREATEST feeling in the world! Taking my time with the beast, she eventually came up. And wow, what a beautiful toad she was. She actually came up way away from the boat and I had to back up to get her across the surface to the net. As she slid into the net dad said, “Oh my gosh Trev, that is a huge fish.” And she was, measuring almost 32” long and a girthy gal to say the least…our trip was complete. After a trip that was so special I can’t even bleed into words…we got to hammer a stud at the last minute. We got some great pics and then did a release video of the magical ending to our trip. I gave her a big sloppy smooch and set her free back to her home of the Columbia River.

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Deciding to wrap it up on a high note…and I mean like sky high note!! We secured the boat and said our goodbyes to our friends. Making it over to Kimo’s boat to thank him (and Jeremy “Bigfish” Siefken) for being such a wonderful host, he gave us our trip name. Last year it was the “Columbia River Savages” and this year he coined us the Columbia River Porn Stars (because we are so nasty to the walleye.) Again, laughing so hard I could barely say goodbye…it was the end to our trip, but the memories made will last until our final days.

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Tips:

  • 1/2 ounce Glass Minnows tipped with crawlers or Berkley Gulp or Trigger X minnows
  • 6-6’3” medium power extra fast action rods
  • 8 lb Stren Magnathin or 8 lb Berkley Fire line (crystal color)-BUT USE A 3 FOOT FLORO LEADER to your jig
  • Go the same speed as the current so you can keep your jig as perpendicular to the bottom as possible
  • Let your jig fall on a slack line
  • Boat control…it takes a great deal of dedication to work the break lines. Keep your boat in the strike zone.
  • Pack a cooler full of patience
  • -Practice “selective harvest” and have fun “JIGGIN’ THE DREAM”

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(Written by Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle)






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